By CONNIE ESHThe Wilson Post
Two absent commissioners led to a recess of Wilson County Commission before voting on a privilege tax for the proposed Bible Park USA Monday night at the group’s regular meeting.
District 8 Commissioner Frank Bush and District 14 Commissioner Jeff Joines were absent from the meeting, which led supporters of the 5 percent privilege tax for the Bible Park to be concerned if they had the two-thirds majority, or 17 votes, required by state law to pass the ordinance. State law also requires tax ordinances to pass three readings at three consecutive regular meetings.
So when the matter came up on the agenda, District 21 Commissioner Eugene Murray moved to defer the vote until the end of the meeting.
The deferment passed, 15-8, opposed by District 1 Commissioner Larry West, District 3’s Fred Weston, District 4’s Jim Emberton, District 5’s Carolyn Thompson, District 11’s Bob Neal, District 12’s Billy Rowland, District 19’s L.T. Jenkins and District 22’s Heather Scott.
As soon as the rest of commission’s business was complete, Scott moved to adjourn, which would have killed the ordinance. However, the motion failed 8-15 with the same commissioners voting to adjourn as had opposed the deferral.
Then Murray made the motion to recess until 6:45 p.m., Monday, March 16, right before the commission’s next regular meeting. County Attorney Mike Jennings warned the commissioners that the recessed meeting must be completed by 7 p.m. March 16 when the next regular meeting starts.
Murray said he wanted the recess so all the commissioners could have their say on the issue which he noted has become controversial.
In other action, the commission heard about issues concerning the Budget Committee’s request for both a status quo budget and one that reflects a 10 percent cut.Sheriff Terry Ashe and Wilson Emergency Management Agency Director John Jewel told the commission their departments could not cut 10 percent without cutting vital services.
Ashe said the only part of his budget state law allows him any control over is the School Resource Officers. He added that he felt it would be dangerous for teachers and students if those officers were cut from the budget.
Jewell said his department could only meet a 10 percent cut by closing two fire stations.
But Budget Committee Chair Bernie Ash explained that the 10 percent budget was a worst case scenario, not a plan for fiscal year 2009-2010.
“We don’t expect to have to make any cuts at this time,” Ash said. “But if the bottom drops out, we need to have your recommendations because I don’t want the budget committee to make those decisions on their own.”
Wilson County Schools Director Mike Davis also brought some budget news to the commission although the school budget was exempted from the 10 percent request. He said he has been notified that the school is going to lose about $150,000 in Title I funding because less than 5 percent of the county’s children are below the federal poverty line.
He also told the commission that state funding is expected to be down, but federal stimulus money may make that deficit up.
Waving a one dollar bill, he said, “The federal government is giving out 787 million of these, and I intend to get every one I can for Wilson County.”
Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.